MClinRes Y2 Dissertation and Final Units. Aim: to explore in depth undergraduate MPharm student perspectives and views on the causes of differential attainment in a pharmacy context

Victoria Tavares, The University of Manchester

Undergraduate students from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups have been shown to perform less well than their white counterparts in their degrees across disciplines. (HEFCE 2010)  Within the health sciences a similar pattern has been established in medical education(Woolf 2011) Ipharmacy, differences in the attainment of some BME students have been identified at the point of the GPhC registration assessment where data shows that BME MPharm graduates performed significantly worse, i.e. had higher failure rates, than white candidates. (Johnston 2016) 

There are many factors that influence academic attainment. A comprehensive report by Mountford-Zimdars 2015 on behalf of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) classifies the causes of differential attainment from macro level factors such as socio- economic background and gender, through to micro level factors such as teaching and assessment practices, networking, and support opportunities for students.  While macro level factors cannot be addressed at an institutional levelmicro level interventions could potentially offer support to reduce the differential attainment gap. 

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) report by Johnson 2016 suggests that similar micro level themes such as student integration, personalised feedback and equality and diversity approaches should be considered by schools of pharmacy to ensure that they are meeting the needs of students from a range of backgrounds.  

As 74% of undergraduate students studying pharmacy at the University of Manchester are from BME backgrounds, this setting provides a good test bed to explore further any difficulties BME MPharm students experience during their undergraduate education.  Data provided by the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health at the University of Manchester suggests that students from a BME background are less likely to achieve a first class MPharm degree, and provide possible insights into the context of the project. 

The aim of the proposed research is to explore in depth undergraduate MPharm student perspectives and views on the causes of differential attainment in a pharmacy context.  Objectives include to: 

  • Explore awareness of differential attainment with MPharm students 
  • Identify current teaching and learning practices perceived by students as facilitating and or hindering success for all 
  • Explore student views on the acceptability and usefulness of interventions recommended in the literature, and identifying further support mechanisms students perceive as beneficial 

The study will involve undertaking a series of focus groups with Manchester MPharm students from a range of backgrounds.  Following completion of analysis findings will be used to support the development of an intervention to reduce the attainment gap and enhance the student experience for all.  A follow up study could then evaluate any interventions introduced. 

This project ran from September 2018 to September 2019.